Too busy for a VIP whisky tasting?

Chivas mixes web with direct marketing for virtual tasting experience

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SHANGHAI--Pernod Ricard has created a virtual whisky tasting promotion to market its Chivas Regal 12 whisky in China, one of the fastest-growing Scotch markets in the world.

With Diageo investing heavily in China to grow its Johnnie Walker brand, the French company is looking for creative ways to preserve its commanding share of Scotch sales in a country where business deals are sealed over drinks in a karaoke bar, not in the boardroom.

At the same time, young, urban adults are working longer hours, making them more difficult to reach through VIP events, and they are branching out to newer, trendier spirits. A virtual tasting site not only gives Chivas a sharper image among these trend-conscious consumers but also reaches them where they live, literally.

By the end of June 2006, China had 123 million Internet users, up amost 20% from June 2005, according to the China Internet Network Information Center, and 77 million have broadband access. Nearly 60% of urban households in cities like Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Wuhan have a personal computer at home.

Potential consumers are invited to register for the Chivas promotion, and selected recipients are sent a premium home tasting pack by direct mail. The pack includes instructions, three tasting glasses, a tasting mat that doubles as a PC mouse mat, product brochures and miniature bottles of three whiskies (Chivas Regal 12, grain and Strathisla). It also contains a coded invitation to a web site, where consumers can attend a virtual tasting.

“We have found tastings a great medium for delivering detailed product information, but many of our core audience are unable to attend at set times due to their intense work and social schedules,” said Shanghai-based Thomas Menier, brand ambassador for Chivas Regal 12 in China.

“The virtual tasting allows consumers to attend the event whenever they want, and provides us with the opportunity to track their preferred time. The use of the web has also enabled the brand to communicate its high quality product message across Chivas enthusiasts pan-China.”

The web site (chivas.com.cn/virtualtasting) contains a 10-minute flash video that walks consumers through the set up of the tasting, the history of Chivas Brothers, the importance of Speyside as a whisky region and then tasting of the grain, single malt and Chivas Regal 12 blend.

The architect and project manager of the promotion is Tequila, the direct marketing arm of TBWA Worldwide in Shanghai. The web site and eDMs were developed by China Interactive.

Flash technology allowed Chivas to create an “interactive experience, with question and response capability guided by a real actor,” said Ross Gearing, Tequila’s CRM director for China in Shanghai. “We are able to give a virtual tasting experience matching that of a real tasting event.”
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